How To Onboard Massage Employees and New Massage Therapists

In the massage industry, each and every practitioner has their own unique take on how they provide treatment, the space they cultivate, and the kinds of clients they like to work with. 

Over time, and with great service, the client list begins to grow, and there soon becomes a need to expand the team to serve more and more. 

There’s no question, a growing massage business requires more team members – from other therapists to take on more clients, to administrative responsibilities to manage the other parts of the day to day.

As a practitioner-owner, it can be overwhelming to think about how to properly & successfully onboard new massage therapists and front desk staff– especially when you’re just winging it, or haven’t onboarded anyone other than yourself!

Here’s the good news – with some strategy and planning, onboarding new employees and therapists can be a smooth and seamless process. The key is to have clear procedures in place that outline how the business operates, as well as expectations and responsibilities for all team members. 

This will not only make the onboarding process easier, but it will also set a solid foundation for a successful team dynamic.

Here are some key tips and methods you can implement to make sure your onboarding process is efficient and effective:

Have A Clear Onboarding Plan With Key Check Points

The first step to successfully onboard new massage employees and therapists is to have a well-thought-out plan in place. This should outline all the necessary steps and information that needs to be covered during the onboarding process. Some key elements to include in your plan are:

  • An overview of the business and its values
  • Detailed information on job roles and responsibilities
  • Training procedures and schedule for new employees
  • Introduction to company policies and procedures
  • Explanation of any necessary paperwork, such as contracts or non-disclosure agreements

You wouldn’t go into a new client session without a plan, so why should onboarding your massage team members be any different? With a clear plan in place, you can ensure that all important information is covered and that the new team members are set up for success from day one.

Your onboarding plan should go beyond just the first day or week of a new team member’s employment. Create a timeline for training and development, along the following check points:

  • Day 1
  • End of Week 1
  • End of Month 1 (30 Days)
  • End of 90 Days

It’s important to continue checking in with new team members after their initial training is complete.

Schedule regular check-ins to see how they are settling into their role and if they have any additional questions or concerns. This not only helps with the onboarding process, but also shows that you care about their success and well-being within the company.

During these check-ins, be sure to provide feedback and praise for their progress so far. This will help boost their confidence and make them feel valued as a new member of the team.

Have Your Processes & Policies Ready

One of the biggest mistakes that practitioner-owners make is trying to onboard a new massage therapist or front desk without having any sort of processes, policies, or systems in place. This can lead to a chaotic onboarding experience, where you as the owner feel like you’re constantly having to train someone from your own effort and energy, and constantly review errors and mistakes.

Clear processes and policies ensure that every team member understands the standard procedures and expectations, which leads to consistent service quality. This is crucial in a massage business where clients expect a reliable and high-quality experience every time they visit.

When processes are clearly outlined, there is less room for mistakes. This means fewer client complaints, less rework, and a smoother overall operation. In a massage business, this translates to better client retention and satisfaction.

Plus, having clear policies and procedures helps new employees feel more confident and capable in their roles. They know exactly what is expected of them and how to perform their tasks, which can lead to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

Key Areas to Focus On for Onboarding Massage Employees

Client Intake and Scheduling: Outline the steps for client intake, including how to read the schedule, collect client intake information, and handle cancellations or rescheduling. Set clear guidelines for booking policies, no-show policies, and late cancellations to ensure consistency and fairness.

Treatment Protocols: What should happen in every session? Or will it be totally up to the therapist. Outline what’s expected, and included in the treatment specific to your massage business. 

Checkout & Payment Processing: Assuming your new massage therapist will also handle checkout, outline the steps for processing payments, using the register, and how to redeem gift cards, packages, and/or memberships. 

Make Yourself Available for Questions

Think about your first day in the field as a massage therapist. You probably had a lot of questions and were grateful for someone to turn to when you needed guidance. The same goes for new employees – they will likely have many questions during the onboarding process.

Make it clear that you are available to answer any questions, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. This will help build trust and a sense of support for the new team member.

Here are some of the questions you might get during the onboarding process:

  • What is the company dress code?
  • How do I access important documents or resources?
  • Who should I turn to for payment support or scheduling changes?
  • What is the company’s policy on breaks and time off?
  • How do I handle difficult clients or situations?

The key here isn’t to be a walking FAQ – it’s to be a trusted resource for new employees. Encourage them to come to you with any questions or concerns, and be patient and understanding when they do.

Remember, the more thorough your policies and procedures are, the less questions you have to answer yourself. 

Assign a Mentor or Buddy Day One

One of the most helpful ways to onboard new massage employees is by assigning them a mentor or buddy within your spa or practice. (This is assuming you’ve already got other therapists or front desk members on staff.)

Mentors and buddies can provide a valuable resource for new employees, as they can offer support and guidance on the job. They can also help new team members acclimate to the company culture and answer any questions that may come up in the early days of being hired.

Having someone to turn to during those initial days and weeks can greatly improve the onboarding experience, and also reduce your workload as the owner. 

What makes for a good buddy? Someone who is friendly, patient, and knowledgeable about the company and its processes.

Clarify Their Growth & Payment Structure

Everyone wants to grow – not just in their massage therapy career, but also as a person. Onboarding is a great place to start discussing career growth with new employees. Be transparent about potential opportunities for advancement within your practice, and ask them about their own personal and professional goals.

Be sure to also be clear when they will get paid, if and for how long they will be on a probationary period, and any salary changes based on that period. Your new massage therapist will also want to know at what point they should expect to have a full client load, as well as what’s being done on their behalf, or your behalf, to make sure there’s a steady stream of clients. 

Foster Team Connections & Demonstrate Culture Early

Being the new person on a team can be overwhelming, especially if everyone else has been working together for a while. As the manager or supervisor, you can help ease this transition by fostering connections among team members.

The more connected your team members are, the more likely they will be to communicate and collaborate effectively. Plan team-building activities or encourage team members to grab lunch or coffee together. This will help create a positive and supportive work environment.

Some potential team-building activities could include:

  • A group outing to a local attraction or event
  • Team sports or fitness classes
  • Volunteering together for a cause the team cares about
  • Game nights or trivia competitions

It may seem silly to try and implement a team dynamic so early on, but it can make a huge difference in the overall cohesiveness and productivity of your team.

Culture can be difficult inside of every massage business. Think about what makes your team unique, what are the unwritten rules about how people are supposed to behave. Be sure to demonstrate and champion this culture early, and make corrections if you see someone acting out of alignment, 

Remember – Day One Is The Most Important Day

Your massage therapists and administrative team members will spend quite a bit of time in your practice – but nothing quite compares to the very first day. This is when they will form their initial impressions of your team and practice, and it can set the tone for their entire experience.

When you can onboard new massage therapists effectively, you will be helping to establish a positive attitude and solid foundation for them. Make sure they feel welcomed and supported from day one – it will set the stage for a successful and enjoyable working dynamic.

The more inclusive and supportive your team dynamic is, the more productive and successful your practice will be – and that sense of confidence and care will overflow into your patient care. 

Keep these tips in mind as you welcome and integrate new team members into your spa or massage therapy practice.

Darryl "DJ" Turner

Darryl "DJ" Turner

I help wellness practice owners scale their income, impact, and freedom. I believe practitioner-owners should build their practice in a way that it not only generates income, but allows them the freedom to step back and live a life they love.